Sales Tips and Tricks: Dealing with Difficult People


I asked a long-​time professional salesperson how he handled difficult people. He said that he simply refused to deal with them. Admitting he was fortunate that he owned his business and could choose his customers, he contended that the loss was theirs and not his. Now, most of us aren’t that lucky. Therefore, we are obliged to accommodate unreasonable demands or suffer rudeness and still maintain some sense of self-​worth. Fortunately, there are some sales tips and tricks specifically intended to help us deal with difficult people.

These Sales Tips and Tricks Require a Calculated Approach

Unfortunately, manipulators, narcissists and psychopaths share our workspace or conduct business in the same setting we find ourselves. These personality traits are referred to as ‘the dark triad’ by Seth Spain, Ph.D, blogger for Psychology Today. Spain suggests that the dark side of personalities are not always apparent or detrimental. However, under stress they can undermine relationships and make life difficult. When our client exhibits these dark sides, it becomes particularly important for us to employ some sales tips or tricks to diffuse or lessen the negative effects. Importantly, these remedies require a set of deliberate tactics and attitudes.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

The principal of positivity pays big dividends. Psychotherapist, Kimberly Hershensen recommends making a daily gratitude list so you can substitute negative energy with your own positive thoughts. Additionally, she encourages you to focus on the elements within your control when dealing with a mean person. This not only helps with perspective but can assist when it’s apparent that a third party needs to be involved. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. Above all, try to limit time spent with negative people and chronic complainers. 

Know the Signs of Manipulation

We have all used our influence to get someone to comply. It’s basic human nature. However, when someone seeks to lower another’s self-​esteem to increase their own, it can cause great harm. It’s well known that some of the best sales tips and tricks involve the translation of body language. Well, according to Don Weber, writing for Entrepreneur​.com, the body language of manipulators can be a strong indicator of their intent. Some of the actions you will observe are direct indications of manipulation. Here are just a few of Weber’s examples:

  1. Foot tapping: A sign of annoyance or impatience. An attempt to get the victim to rush and feel guilt.
  2. Chin rubbing: Showing uncertainty or low confidence. A tactic to get the victim to do the task themselves.
  3. Shifting body positions: Showing discomfort. Another attempt to instill guilt and gain control of the situation.

Reject and Refuse to Participate in Manipulative Behavior

Abusive narcissists and psychopaths thrive on victim buy-​in. That’s the message from Shahida Arabi in a lengthy article for the thoughtcatalog​.com. Arabi lists 20 diversion tactics used by those who try to manipulate their victims. Sadly, abusers use these tactics with great skill. Their goal is simply to distort reality and deflect responsibilities from themselves. These schemes may include ‘gaslighting,’ blame-​shifting, generalizations, moving the goal posts, or changing the subject. Interestingly, these tactics cannot be effective if the victim does not play along. Arabi suggests the best defense is to be firmly grounded in your own reality. Hold onto your truth and resist being drawn into the argument. If you can avoid internalizing the feelings, all the better. Additionally, you may be able to call them out on their behavior as a form of preemptive defense.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash


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Tim Londergan

Tim Londergan

Tim is a research contributor at SalesFuel and he writes for SalesFuel Today. Previously, he worked as a Sales Development Manager, representing products such as AdMall and AudienceSCAN. Tim holds a B.S. from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.
Tim Londergan

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